Kellogg’s forces 1,400 cereal plant workers to strike
Members of BCTGM are on strike against Kellogg's. | Photos via BCTGM

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (PAI)—The workers who bring your kids Tony the Tiger on Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are growling at their bosses, who have forced them to strike.

Facing 12-hour shifts seven days a week at their plants in Battle Creek, Mich., Omaha, Neb. Lancaster, Pa., and Memphis, Tenn., plus company demands for givebacks and sacrifices in months of fruitless bargaining, the 1,400 members of four Bakery, Confectionery, and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) locals officially struck on Oct. 5.

“For more than a year throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kellogg workers around the country have been working long, hard hours, day in and day out, to produce Kellogg ready-to-eat cereals for American families,” union President Anthony Shelton said in a statement.

“Kellogg’s response to these loyal, hardworking employees has been to demand these workers give up quality health care, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay. The company continues to threaten to outsource jobs if workers do not accept outrageous proposals that take away protections that workers have had for decades.

“Kellogg is making these demands as they rake in record profits, without regard for the well-being of the hardworking men and women who make the products that created” them.

Kellogg’s own figures sent to Wall Street back up his point. First-quarter profits in North America were $379 million, up 3.6% from the first quarter of 2020. North American sales rose 1.6%, quarter to quarter, to $2.13 billion in 2021, even though cereal sales dropped 1.9%. What Kellogg’s didn’t say was that first-quarter profits equaled 17.7% of sales.

And using federal records, the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch reported company CEO Stephen Cahillane received $11.664 million in pay and perks in the firm’s fiscal 2021 year. His total was 279 times the median pay for Kellogg workers.

Besides Tony the Tiger and his Frosted Flakes, the workers produce Froot Loops, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, and Corn Flakes. A new contract must “reward them for their hard work and dedication and protect the future of all Kellogg workers,” Shelton said.

Daniel Osborn, president of Local 50G in Omaha, told the Associated Press talks with management have been “at an impasse” for more than a year. He said continued company threats to outsource jobs accompany that. At the company’s foreign-based plants, like in Mexico, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can’t sift the cereals, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration can’t inspect the production lines.

The Tennessee AFL-CIO jumped to support the workers. The last notable conflict between Kellogg’s and BCTGM was in 2013-4, when the firm locked out 226 mostly Black workers, members of Memphis Local 252G, for nine months. It demanded the right to impose lower wages. A federal judge ordered the firm to reinstate the workers, with back pay, on July 31, 2014. This time, Tennessee AFL-CIO leaped to the workers’ defense.

“Every worker deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness on the job. No excuses, nothing less,” state fed President Bill Dycus said. “Our BCTGM brothers and sisters have a simple request: To earn a living wage at a time when corporate greed continues to spiral out-of-control and receive good benefits that can support their families.”

ADD YOUR NAME to support the striking workers of BCTGM.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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